A few weeks ago, I wrote about the utter shock and joy of owning two puppies after a twenty-year hiatus in puppy parenting, likening it to having twin human infants. Well, I’m here to tell you it is—but tiny canines develop at warp speed. Just when you are thinking of calling the puppy farm and asking for your money back, some magical developmental thing happens and life is just a little bit easier. Here is what’s happening now.
A few days ago, the normal developmental puppy wrestling took on a new dimension. The battles were long and fierce, with a lot of chasing and tackling. Surely, this cannot be normal, I thought. And I was right. Biting legs, tails, ears, and most of the torso is okay, but bared teeth, deep growling, and going for the throat, face, or belly are not normal canine development—they are aggression. What happened to my sweet, sleepy little bundles that nestled together in my arms? It was like Kujo and his twin sister had taken up residence.
Fortunately, the fix is easy—time out. Why didn’t I think of that? I know what you are thinking: How do you put a puppy in time out safely? By “safely,” I include the young dog and your belongings. The answer is simplicity itself. All you need is a big cardboard box. I receive a large shipment from Chewy at least two times a week. We have gone through three beds; now own several gates and puppy fences; have enough food to last a husky team a month; and are constantly ordering harnesses, leashes, or toys, so I just happened to have a big Chewy box on hand. So when normal puppy play becomes aggressive, all you have to do is pick up the slavering beast and put it in the box for one minute or two at the most.
Warning! Do not stick your hand into the battle. Use a toy, which the aggressor will latch on to like a snapping turtle, and while the teeth are otherwise occupied, scoop up the wild beast and plop him or her in the box. (Yes, both of our babies have experienced time out.) Almost immediately, they calm down. I don’t know why this works, but it does. It took only a few times in momentary solitary confinement for the pups to understand—and it happened only one time after that first day. What I take from this experience is that sometimes expert advice is correct.
After finally settling into a bedtime routine that includes about twenty minutes of wild activity and chasing, I discovered a disturbing subversive habit: the blue bedspread was ominously green where it draped nicely on the floor. Hidden in the folds, my little darlings were burying their natural scent in ours because we are their protectors and they are vulnerable. Talking to my village of puppy owners, this is a common problem. It is also why dogs drag around your dirty underwear just before company is coming. I’m not sure if this behavioral theory is true—and I really don’t care. The solution was simple: we switched to an ancient comforter without a bed skirt. Voila! No more sprinkled bedding. It’s true our bedroom looks like a fleabag hotel room, and it really hurt when I ran my toes into the exposed bed frame, but the blue bedspread with chartreuse stripes is no longer an issue. The lesson here is that by removing temptation, you are making it easier on yourself and your pup.
Crying and Howling
Speaking of bedtime, I recall in that last blog post that I talked about crying puppies. After consulting the village, I got several differing opinions on how to make bedtime a smooth transition. When the pups first arrived, they slept together on the mid-level of our tri-level house, while we slumbered on the top level. They had each other, water, and a pee pad. This worked for about ten days and was replaced with crying that progressed to howling at the bottom of the steps. Just like my babies, I could not bear these heartrending cries. But I definitely did not want these little creatures in our bed. Our other doxies always slept in their beds alongside ours … but these two definitely had their own needs and ideas. So yes, we caved, and they sleep with us. After their “transition to the bedroom crazies” are over, they come up on the bed and curl up next to us. After this sleep-deprived stressful experience, I realized that sometimes you and your pups have to make your own path.
The Great Outdoors
Last evening when we took Sadie and Teddy out for their last toileting, there was a somewhat rare occurrence in the neighborhood. The haunting sounds of two owls hooting over each other filled the air, drowning out crickets, the mockingbird, and other night sounds. All four of us were immediately on high alert. John and I moved to protect our precious babies, but Sadie was faster than the rest of us. In seconds she was back in the house. After several minutes the owls moved off, silhouetted against the night sky. And that’s when I realized we would do anything to protect these two because now we are a family with four members.
I could write more, but the point is that for every challenge you encounter, there is at least one solution. For every misplaced pile of poop or puddle of pee, you will suddenly realize there are more hits than misses. And most importantly, for every irritation, there is a time when your pup will jump on your leg and beg to be held. You will pick up this lighter-than-air creature and be rewarded with a shower of kisses and a look of pure adoration.
I don’t know about your human partner, but John hasn’t done that in a long time …